Jul 21, 2023
Breaking Up With Diet Soda? Here Are 11 Aspartame
Advertisement Supported by If the World Health Organization’s warning about the artificial sweetener has you worried, try these other refreshers. By Melissa Clark Melissa Clark has been a columnist
If the World Health Organization’s warning about the artificial sweetener has you worried, try these other refreshers.
By Melissa Clark
Melissa Clark has been a columnist for the Food section since 2007.
The World Health Organization declared Thursday that the artificial sweetener aspartame is “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” adding it to the same risk category as breathing in engine exhaust, working in dry-cleaning and consuming certain pickled vegetables.
The W.H.O. suggests you’d have to chug quite a bit of diet soda to enter the danger zone. Its new guidance for safe consumption is 40 milligrams of aspartame per kilogram of body weight, meaning that a committed diet-cola fan weighing 150 pounds could drink as many as a dozen cans a day.
Still, the news may give the jitters (caffeinated or not) to diet-drink die-hards. If you’re ready to swear off the stuff, or at least moderate your habit, here are 11 aspartame-free alternatives to reach for instead.
It doesn’t look or exactly taste like diet cola, and it’s not even fizzy. But the tannins in iced tea mimic some of that carefully honed Diet Coke complexity, and the caffeine will keep you from dropping off at your desk. Just go easy on the sugar.
Lightly caffeinated and made from fermented black or green tea, it’s gently effervescent, judiciously sweet and may even be good for your gut microbiome — or whatever microbiome your diet-drink habit has left you with.
Pick any brand or flavor. It fizzes and is available in a can, which gives you that same satisfying hiss-snap when you crack it open.
A bar staple for many pregnant women and teetotalers, it’s zippy, sort of sophisticated and very satisfying.
This concoction hits the same bright and tangy notes as an icy Diet Coke, and even better, the foam is a perky pink.
This is already the soda pop of sparkling wines. True, alcohol is listed by the W.H.O. as clearly carcinogenic, perhaps even in modest amounts. And Prosecco is hardly low-calorie. But hey, pick your poison.
Shrubs are a sort of locavore-hipster home brew made from fruit-infused vinegar and bubbly water. Bonus: They come in farm-to-table flavors like rhubarb-beet and turmeric-cucumber.
This one-time TikTok sensation is a cool draft of seltzer spiked with balsamic vinegar. It has the bubbles and mahogany hue of diet cola, and many TikTok-ers claim that it tastes just like it, too. Even better, you can pour it on your salad when you’re out of vinaigrette.
In his book “Homemade Soda,” Andrew Schloss offers a recipe for “natural cola” made from fresh and dried citrus zest, coriander, nutmeg and Kitchen Bouquet browning sauce, adding optional gum arabic for “mouthfeel.” Caroline Russock writes on the website Serious Eats that “its complexity is almost amaro-like — dark and filled with rich, sweet aromatics, a more grown-up take on a cola.” Carbonate it with a CO2 siphon for the fluffiest froth. For hard-core enthusiasts only.
These may be the versions you originally fell in love with. It may be tempting to get back in touch with your ex, but given the dietary perils of too much sugar or corn syrup, keep your hookups occasional.
Here’s the no-brainer solution: sugarless, easy to find and free. But even water carries risks. Drinking more than a quart or so per hour, particularly if you’re doing something strenuous, can cause a dangerous electrolyte imbalance.
Really, too much of anything can harm you, so whatever you drink, do it in moderation.
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Melissa Clark has been a columnist for the Food section since 2007. She reports on food trends, creates recipes and appears in cooking videos linked to her column, A Good Appetite. She has also written dozens of cookbooks. More about Melissa Clark